MORE than 150 campaigners gathered at a beauty spot to protest at the sell-off of more than 3,000 acres of publicly owned downland.

Eastbourne and District Friends of the Earth organised the gathering of protesters at Beachy Head on Saturday as part of an ongoing battle to persuade the town's borough council to stop their plans to sell off the farmland.

Friends of the Earth co-ordinator Andy Durling said the huge turnout at such short notice was a good indicator of the strength of opposition to the plans.

Among the attendees was Sussex Wildlife Trust chief executive Tony Whitbread who told campaigners that a square metre of chalk downland was home to 40 species as opposed to ploughed arable farmland which had just two.

Campaigners were also told that chalk grassland provided a natural filtration to Eastbourne's drinking water which could have to be replaced by expensive artificial filtration methods if any of the chalk grassland became ploughed farmland.

Council leader David Tutt has defended the sales saying the seven-figure receipts from the land will be used to fund the redevelopment of Devonshire Park and improve rights of way access while the farmland will remain as it currently is under new owners.